Trends and Transitions in Education Reform and Philanthropy

May 13, 2019

Philantopic_denver_public_schoolsA few months ago, Susana Cordova, the new superintendent of Denver Public Schools, released her one-hundred-day entry plan. Having survived a divisive selection process and a difficult teacher strike at the beginning of her tenure, Cordova took a moment to ask the question: "What does it take to ensure that every child in our city thrives?"

With the release of her plan, she has put forth a vision that includes students, families, and staff working together to ensure that students do exactly that, with an emphasis on the need for her administration to reach out with new and intentional modes of engagement that ensure inclusion of all members of the community.

After reading the plan — and with Cordova's commitment to families front and center — my lingering question for Denver's education eco-space is whether the philanthropic community is willing to get behind community empowerment and advocacy as part of the solution. In order to do that, funders will need to be less prescriptive of the solution and more authentically responsive to what families say are their most critical needs.

Recently, Grantmakers for Education released its Trends in Education Philanthropy Benchmarking Surveywhich takes the pulse of and tracks trends in national education philanthropy. The results reflect a number of changes in education philanthropy, including a greater focus on the "whole learner," as well as deeper investments in postsecondary education and workforce career readiness. A notable finding of the report is that among respondents to the survey, more than 60 percent provided funding for community and family engagement, and many anticipate growth in those investments over the next two years. The report also notes that among the factors or trends funders identified as having the greatest potential impact, engagement with learners' families ranked near the top, while a number of respondents emphasized the role of community organizing in driving and sustaining local school system change.

For more than ten years, a group of local Denver funders — now known as the Colorado Education Organizing (CEO) Funders Collaborative — have worked together to help sustain the education organizing community in our region. As a  group, we  share the view: 1) that foundations have the power to either validate or legitimize entire fields of work due to philanthropy's outsized power and influence; 2) that collaboration among funders can foster and incentivize collaboration among grantees; and 3) that districts and schools often fail to develop a clear vision that permanently places families and students at the decision-making table. Our grantmaking focuses on involving communities of color and communities who are living in poverty to help determine solutions, instead of funders telling communities what they need.

Three years ago, Rose Community Foundation launched Climb Higher Colorado to create a bridge between grassroots and "grasstops" organizing and high-impact family engagement strategies. Both the CEO Funders Collaborative and Climb Higher are thriving, but the reality is that not all funders, in Denver or nationally, view community engagement and family engagement as key to changing educational outcomes. Even more truthfully, many funders are uncomfortable with the notion that communities should bring solutions to us, rather than the other way around.

The Benchmarking Survey highlights the important and difficult question: "How will we navigate the challenge of sharing power with those who have historically had little, especially on occasions when their ideas differ from our own?" Which foundations have the appetite for and courage to take that risk? The Denver education environment is changing. Many school districts locally and across the country are experiencing strategy changes with new leaders. Many local funders — including Rose Community Foundation — are in the process of determining how we must evolve, deepen, and in some cases pivot from our current path.

Philantopic_headshot_janet_lopezWhat we hope emerges from this era of change is greater willingness among education funders and those in power to enable local communities drive and shape their own education systems.

Janet Lopez is a senior program officer for education at Rose Community Foundation, where she works to help all children achieve academic success in the K-12 public school system.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 11-12, 2019)

May 12, 2019

0510_flooding_CNNA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

There’s been an email marketing paradigm shift in the nonprofit sector, writes Caroline Fothergill on the npEngage site. Whereas the size of a list used to be all that mattered, "collectively [we've] come to realize the value of quality over quantity." Today, open and click rates are where it's at, and Fothergill shares some practical advice designed to help nonprofits improve their results in both areas.

Criminal Justice

"As a person who uses drugs," writes Louise Vincent on the Open Society Foundation's Voices blog, "I know that no one person is to blame. What is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths from drug overdose is a broken drug policy, a system that prioritizes punishment over treatment, and a culture of prohibition that leads us to use drugs alone and in shame." 

Health

What does it take to build fair opportunities for health in rural communities? On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Whitney Kimball Coe,  coordinator of the National Rural Assembly, a movement geared toward building better policy and greater opportunity across the country, shares some of the lessons she has learned in her work.

Book reading has been declining for decades, and language and communications experts are concerned. Markheim Heid, a health and lifestyle writer, takes a closer look at the research — and the implications for society.

Higher Education

It's time to shift the social contract of education away from short-term job training toward long-term development, writes David M. Perry, a former professor of history, on the Pacific Standard site. And free college has to be part of that shift.

In The Atlantic, Tom Nichols, author of the Death of Expertise, argues that the idea that students on college campuses should have "a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like...is a dangerous development — a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education." Readers of Nichols' article respond.

On the Charity Navigator blog, Emily B. Tyree, associate director of communications at Action Against Hunger, shares three ways mothers in developing countries are finding ways to deal with hunger and food insecurity and making a critical difference for their children and  communities.

Nonprofits

"[T]he lack [of resources] from which the nonprofit sector suffers is...a mindset," argues Nell Edgington. "But a mindset that can be overcome."

Lots of good posts on the the GuideStar blog. Be sure to check out "What Does It Take to Be Happy at Work?" by Nadia Elboubkri and Ruby Johnson; "Boost Your Fundraising by Centering Your Audience in Your Content and Engagement Strategy" by Brad (Schenck) Caldana; and "Fundraising Lessons from Freddie Mercury & Queen" by Barbara O'Reilly.

How is the nonprofit sector like Game of Thrones? Nonprofit AF's Vu Le explains.

Philanthropy

On the Heron Foundation blog, Jasmine McGhee, a communications associate at the foundation, chats with Mary Jo Mullan, who wore many hats at the foundation from 1992 to 2009, about why philanthropies should place general operating support front and center in their grantmaking strategies.

Pam Foster, a lawyer and strategic operations specialist with more than twenty years' experience in the philanthropic sector, looks at the growing field of collaborative philanthropy in a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog and explains how collaboratives can help new grantmaking organizations benefit from lessons learned by those who preceded them.

On Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog, Genevieve Boutilier, a program associate at the Peace and Security Funders Group, suggests that "simply understanding who and what gets funded is only the start of the conversation" and that without more timely, detailed data, the sector will never be able to answer "tough questions...like: Why are certain regions, issues, and strategies underfunded? Why are certain populations prioritized over others? Why isn't awarding general operating support increasing, especially given the ample evidence that suggests that it’s a best practice? Why are certain kinds of grantees passed over for funding?"

And in the latest issue of Town & Country, Melinda Gates talks to activist and entertainer John Legend about about giving, her family, and her plans to change the world.

(Photo credit: CNN)

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org

Philanthropy Has Changed How It Talks — But Not Its Grantmaking — in the Decade Since NCRP's 'Criteria' Was Released

May 10, 2019

Ncrp-image-1-234x300It's been ten years since NCRP released Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best. As I reflect on the animated response to the report, I'm struck by how far the sector has come since 2009 — and, paradoxically, by how little has changed.

Our decision to publish Criteria was, shall we say, controversial. That NCRP had the temerity to assert that any set of criteria be applied to the field of philanthropy, let alone criteria grounded in our belief that grantmakers needed to prioritize marginalized communities and support grassroots-led problem solving to address the systemic inequities and injustices confronting communities in America every day, had more than a few people aghast.

Here's a sampling of the some of the pushback:

"[NCRP's] hierarchy of ends is breathtakingly arrogant." — Paul Brest, former president, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in the Huffington Post, 2009

"We reject the use of a single template to promote effective philanthropy." — Steve Gunderson, former president, Council on Foundations, 2009

"In the NCRP worldview, philanthropic freedom is not only at risk, it's an oxymoron." — Heather Higgins, former VP, Philanthropy Roundtable, in Forbes, 2009

Criteria earned NCRP new fans and more than a few critics. But when I consider the many books published in the last few years that have been critical of the field, I'm pretty sure that if we released the report today, few would bat an eyelash.

What's changed?

Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: At A Glance

Criteria offered the following aspirational goals for grantmakers looking to maximize their impact in the world:

Criterion I: Values

...contributes to a strong, participatory democracy that engages all communities.

a) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars to benefit lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined.

b) Provides at least 25% of its grant dollars for advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement to promote equity, opportunity, and justice in our society.

Criterion II: Effectiveness

...invests in the health, growth, and effectiveness of its nonprofit partners.

a) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars for general operating support.

b) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars as multiyear grants.

c) Ensures that the time to apply for and report on the grant is commensurate with grant size.

Criterion III: Ethics

...demonstrates accountability and transparency to the public, its grantees, and constituents.

a) Maintains an engaged board of at least five people who include among them a diversity of perspectives — including those of the communities it serves — and who serve without compensation.

b) Maintains policies and practices that support ethical behavior.

c) Discloses information freely.

Criterion IV: Commitment

...engages a substantial portion of its financial assets in pursuit of its mission.

a) Pays out at least 6% of its assets annually in grants.

b) Invests at least 25% of its assets in ways that support its mission.

 

Philanthropic sector discourse has come a long way in the last decade

It has become commonplace for foundation staff to talk publicly about trusting grantees with long-term general support, investing in marginalized communities, and funding structural change.

An ecosystem of philanthropic support organizations devoted to spotlighting the unique needs of marginalized people has flourished with the help of foundation funding.

Equity, justice, and even power have become watchwords for an ascendant progressive philanthropy that is happy to speak openly in the digital pages of sector publications and the well-lit stages of the conference circuit about the kinds of values Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best embodies.

The core idea expressed in the publication — that foundations should be held to a higher standard of equity and community impact — has moved from the margins of sectoral discourse to its center.

The bottom line: The money didn't follow

NCRP's analysis of Candid data shows that the share of domestic foundation giving by the country's one thousand largest foundations for the intentional benefit of marginalized people — a category that, statistically speaking, includes most of the country — inched up from 28 percent to 33 percent between 2009 and 2015.

What do we mean by "marginalized communities"?

There are populations that experience disparities, are politically disenfranchised, or are otherwise marginalized by those with more power and privilege. Funders may use other terms such as "disadvantaged," "vulnerable," "at-risk," "underserved," or "underresourced."

NCRP's definition is intentionally broad and includes (but is not limited to) eleven of the special populations tracked by Candid — i.e., economically disadvantaged; racial or ethnic minorities; women and girls; people with AIDS; people with disabilities; aging, elderly and senior citizens; immigrants and refugees; crime/abuse victims; incarcerated and formerly incarcerated; single parents and LGBTQ citizens.

 

Over the same period, foundation support for structural change strategies, the work that truly transforms systems of deprivation and injustice, declined to less than 10 percent.

And general support grantmaking has remained flat at around 20 percent of domestic giving.

Some notable funders stepping up

A handful of innovative, courageous institutions have deeply transformed the way they make grants, and many of those with the least wealth and power in this country are better for it.

  • The California Endowment, once a skeptic about funding advocacy, is now a field leader as it pursues its mission to expand access to affordable, quality health care for marginalized Californians.
    In 2003, 17 percent of the foundation’s grantmaking was for social justice work. In 2015, that number had jumped to 73 percent.

  • The NoVo Foundation has accelerated institutional change in support of marginalized communities and social justice.
    In 2004, 31 percent of the foundation’s grantmaking supported marginalized communities and 14 percent went to social justice causes. By 2015, 100 percent of NoVo's grantmaking supported social justice for women and girls, Indigenous communities, and other marginalized people.

  • The Bush Foundation stepped up its efforts to make Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota better places to live for all residents, including members of the twenty-three Native nations in the three-state region.
    Between 2003 and 2015, the foundation increased the share of its grantmaking that benefits the region's marginalized communities from 39 percent to 83 percent.

  • The Weingart Foundation has made a public commitment to funding equity efforts in Southern California.
    Between 2003 and 2015, the foundation’s support for marginalized communities increased from 41 percent to 76 percent of its grantmaking. And in 2016, the foundation announced "a long-term commitment to base all of our policy and program decisions on achieving the goal to advance fairness, inclusion, and opportunity for all Southern Californians — especially those communities hit hardest by persistent poverty."

While the above examples can be considered clear signs of progress, the data and my own observations of the sector suggest that while the majority of foundations have grown comfortable with the language and concepts embodied in Criteria, not much has changed.

A shift in philanthropic rhetoric is a necessary first step toward a more just and equitable sector. But without accompanying actions, the words ring hollow.

Two lessons for changing philanthropic norms and practices

NCRP's board, staff, and allies firmly believe that now is the time for grantmakers to walk the talk. Our democracy is increasingly threatened by growing economic inequality, political disenfranchisement, and the resurgence of white nationalist rhetoric and violence.

We have had deep, reflective conversations among ourselves about how to get the sector to take action and have identified two takeaways that will inform our strategies in the years ahead:

1. Social movements — people power — are the best hope for changing the way money and power moves in philanthropy. Mass movements, from labor to civil rights to LGBTQ rights, have wrought the deepest transformations in American society — and the philanthropic sector has been similarly shaped, at least in part, by those societal shifts.

Through our nonprofit membership program, we've renewed our focus on building a vibrant community of grassroots nonprofit organizations eager to advocate for foundations to support their rhetoric with their resources.

A few weeks ago, we launched the Movement Investment Project, which articulates new data, new norms, and a new vision for how foundations and donors can and should relate to and support social movements, grounded in the experience, needs, and knowledge of grantee leaders on the frontlines of those movements.

2. Unless the philanthropic sector reckons with its power, grantmaking is unlikely to change for the better. The concentration of resources and certain kinds of expertise at foundations lends them significant power in the broader social sector. That concentration of power will continue to be an impediment to systemic change to grantmaking trends until foundations choose to build power among their grantees, share power with communities, and wield their power, in the form of their social and political capital, to benefit marginalized people.

If you're a foundation leader comfortable with the language of equity and justice, I hope you'll be inspired to take a hard look at your grantmaking through the lens of NCRP's Power Moves toolkit, or resources such as:

Pop the hood, do a deep dive into the data, and ask yourself whether your current reality matches your rhetoric.

In times of crisis, it can be challenging to think beyond the daily headlines. But consider your legacy: In a decade or two, when you look back on this time, a time when the fate of American democracy — indeed, the fate of many species, including our own — seemed uncertain, what do you hope to be able to say about your work?

Headshot_aaron_dorfman_finalNow is not the time for business as usual. The philanthropic community has a significant amount of money and power at its disposal. It is time to start using it to support grassroots social movements.

Aaron Dorfman is president and CEO of NCRP.

Design Therapy for the Purpose-Driven Organization

May 08, 2019

Branding_Alpha Stock ImagesThe value of brand design for nonprofits or foundations — when done right — is not just in the outcome but in the process. Design is the act of (re)imagining how we see and communicate ideas. It's an opportunity to challenge assumptions, change minds, and test the status quo. Brand design, in particular, is rife with such opportunities and, of course, potential landmines. For organizations that are prepared to embark on the adventure, it can be transformative in unexpected ways. At its best, a brand redesign can reinforce and strengthen an organization's work, increase its engagement with internal and external audiences, and pave the way for real growth.

Clarity, Meet Beauty

Branding is the process of figuring out the clearest, truest manifestation of who you are as an organization through words, images, and graphics. A great brand elucidates the "who" (people and ethos) and the "why" (purpose) succinctly and clearly. And the process of getting to a great brand typically starts with a design firm gathering as much qualitative data as it can about your organization.

By data, I mean the perspectives of internal and external stakeholders; an operational values assessment; deep dives into strategic business goals, personality drivers, competitive landscape, and positioning; and audience identification. It's similar in these respects to how an organization would approach a strategic planning process.

All the insights are then distilled into a strategy that highlights key elements such as organizational personality, values, and market differentiation. This strategy guides the creation of new messaging, tagline, logo, website, and so on.

So, what's the big deal? It seems pretty straightforward.

Branding in the for-profit world is often defined in marketing terms: name recognition and consistency leading to monetary transactions and customer loyalty. Starbucks' ubiquitous global brand presence is based on and contributes to a standardization of its customers' experience. People recognize the brand immediately and know what they are going to get.

Qualitative insights, strategizing, and collateral creation are elements of any good branding process, but the real key to a stellar nonprofit brand is activation of the "purpose" driver. A successful nonprofit brand boldly states what the organization delivers and establishes a recognizable identity through the compelling expression of the organization's core mission — both visually and via messaging. It shares the "awareness" goal of for-profit branding but emphasizes mission.

Let me give you an example. When we were first approached by the Oregon Community Foundation, the organization's identity fell short of expressing its mission and incredible legacy as Oregon's largest foundation. Over the months that followed, we led the foundation through a full rebrand which resulted in a new identity system that conveys the foundation's personality (steadfast, optimistic, approachable) and approach to its work of bringing together Oregonians to create real, community-driven impact.

Change Requires Courage

The process of reimagining an organizational identity can produce both excitement and fear. Going through a rebranding process means holding up a mirror to your organization — and yourself. What you see sometimes can be disconcerting. Often, people realize that their own vision for the organization hasn't been aligned with the organization's goals, or there may be disagreement among colleagues about who gets to define what the organization is and should be.

We started using the term "design therapy" with our clients to prepare them for what they're likely to experience. Undertaking a rebranding project requires courage, patience, and a lot of effort. Any therapeutic process includes some discomfort on the road to success. Whether it's recovering from a torn muscle, processing a momentous life event, or rebranding an organization, therapy involves grappling with, ironing out, and coming to terms with hard truths — and eventually making breakthroughs and arriving at compromises that serve the greater good.

A good agency comes to this work prepared to be a guide and with real empathy and understanding for the challenges that lie ahead. Every project presents a different mix of personalities, history, mission and culture. Inviting clients into the design process builds trust, transparency, and ultimately a powerful partnership that helps organizations embrace the uncertainty inherent in the process.

The real bottom line of any nonprofit branding process, however, is the collective nature of the work. Securing equitable stakeholder buy-in from the executive team, program leaders, and the board from the very beginning ensures that team members have a chance early on to weigh in.

Bringing these (oftentimes) disparate viewpoints into alignment via the branding process usually results in a renewed sense of engagement and belonging for all. Through the work, staff and leadership gain a renewed appreciation for the potential of the organization and are invigorated by it.

The process often results in a transformational shift in the organization's culture that leads staff to see the revived brand as a platform for deeper audience engagement and growth, as well as the "why" behind their commitment to the work. Only then can designers reimagine the visual elements of the brand in ways that capture the organization's aspirations for the future, creating resonance with internal and external audiences for year to come.

When executed well, a brand redesign helps your target audiences better understand what your organization is and does and will have them thinking: "I want to be part of that."

The rest is up to you.

Philantopic_headshot_Talie-Smith copy

(Image credit: Alpha Stock Images)

Talie Smith is a partner and creative director at Smith & Connors, where she draws on her background in visual design, literature, and foundation work to help organizations understand who they are and express their identity through brand, web design, and compelling user experiences.

 

How Foundations Are Transforming Risk Into Opportunity

May 06, 2019

At the downtown Los Angeles office of Southern California Grantmakers, dozens of leading thinkers from philanthropic organizations recently gathered for a Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors' "Theory of the Foundation Seminar." The lively discussion addressed philanthropic time horizons, ways to achieve greater operational effectiveness, and driving strategic impact.

Eventually, the conversation turned to risk: the multitude of risks associated with operating in a world increasingly characterized by growing instability and need; and the importance of taking and absorbing risk as a philanthropic actor. Underlying the conversation were a number of current global trends, including:

  • growing populism and socio-political instability;
  • a backlash against private philanthropy in part based on the belief that the growing concentration of wealth is a main contributor to societal problems;
  • the expansion of what philanthropy entails to include impact investing; and
  • a renewed interest in advocacy, capital aggregation, and partnerships in philanthropy.

As the discussion revealed, risk is often believed to be innate to philanthropy, deeply tied to the sense that a philanthropist should also be an innovator, and that philanthropic giving is synonymous with risk capital. Many philanthropic organizations with sizable resources (both financial and non-financial) and the will to confront global challenges welcome this idea — in theory. In reality, however, many see risk as a barrier to strategic philanthropic giving. In part, this is because the meaning of risk itself isn't always adequately unpacked across programs, governance, and staff. As one attendee stated, "We are using the word 'risk' as if we all...agree on its meaning, but we…are not all using it the same way."

To overcome this lack of clarity, donors need to develop a clear strategy around risk. This first requires an understanding of the different types of risk and an awareness of their sources and triggers. The next step is to define specific risks for the donor or community served, as well as the sector at large, as well as methods and remedies for mitigation. Based on discussion at the seminar, generally agreed-upon types of risk fall into six main categories.

  1. Investment/Financial Risk: potential financial loss and uncertainty of "return" when engaging in economic development of communities, impact investing, or investing in a new field or project.
  2. Operational Risk: potential financial or social loss resulting from insufficient or failed human resources, procedures, systems, or policies.
  3. Grantmaking Risk: potential failure of grants, particularly when granting to new issues or people with little track record or history.
  4. Political Risk: potential adverse impact of policies, governmental decisions, political events, or conditions.
  5. Reputational Risk: damage to an organization's reputation through action deemed controversial or politically sensitive.
  6. Innovation Risk: potential failure when adopting, supporting, or creating new approaches, solutions, or technologies.

These risk types are interwoven through a range of risk determinants, influences, and considerations, which can include:

  1. time-horizon: the philanthropic lifespan of an organization, whether limited or in perpetuity, impacts intrinsic risk tolerance, as well as other related considerations including donor intent, collaboration, and resource allocation.
  2. organizational culture and values: the values and culture of an organization playa a key role in shaping its organizational approach to risk, as well as levels of risk-aversion or risk-taking among its individual staff members. 
  3. social bias vs. diversity, equity, and inclusion: the internal biases projected toward marginalized social groups can influence to whom philanthropic organizations give grants, who they employ, and the voices they seek to amplify. In many cases, organizations committed to DEI internally as well as externally will act to balance the social biases that make them risk-averse.

There was broad consensus in the room that foundations should not shy away from risk. Indeed, a better solution to enhance strategic effectiveness and impact is to address it head-on. Actionable suggestions to mitigate risk included:

  • collaborating with like-minded partners to build legitimacy and increase opportunity;
  • encouraging an internal culture of experimentation and failure;
  • explicitly devoting a designated percentage of funds or funding to higher-risk activities or investments;
  • allocating discretionary funds to risky investments;
  • building trust with the communities being served;
  • shifting hiring practices to recruit staff representative of the communities served, and with skills and knowledge to effectively address risk; and
  • creating and sharing knowledge around risk.

Rockefeller_blog_post_20190506

Within each organization, there are risk takers or owners of the various types and levels of risks outlined above. The risk takers include: 

  • philanthropies and funders
  • leaders (i.e., CEOs, executive directors)
  • staff (i.e., program officers)
  • grantees and communities served

While each of these groups absorbs a different form of risk depending on the role they play in decision-making and the philanthropic funding cycle, they, too, are impacted by the risk determinants noted above. Moreover, some groups —particularly Funders and Leaders — bear responsibility for all or most risk types. Accordingly, it falls to them to actively work to define each type of risk, develop strategies, and advance solutions designed to minimize the identified risks.

Philanthropic organizations are uniquely positioned to embrace risk and identify solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. This includes taking part in more conversations around risk and viewing failure as a learning opportunity, building an a knowledge sharing ecosystem of peers and practitioners, and taking on risk collaboratively. As one attendee noted, "Risk is about being more nimble, more reactive to the environment, and creating a platform that allows for transformation to happen, and it is the work of foundations to keep pushing these things forward."

Kalyah_olga_2Olga Tarasov is director, knowledge development at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, where she oversees and advances research, publications, and both internal and external programs. She previously worked at the National Endowment for Democracy and also has served as a spokesperson on issues affecting the region and the field of international philanthropy. 

Kalyah Ford is a senior researcher at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Kalyah previously worked as a research and policy specialist with the World Bank Group, and drove advocacy communications at Human Rights First, developed public diplomacy policy at the United States Department of State, and worked as the Research Lead on a pan-African study for the Open Society Foundations West Africa Initiative (OSIWA).

The Privilege and Peril of Becoming a Foundation CEO

May 02, 2019

GettyImages-612396272-v2-compressorThe occasion of recruiting and hiring a new CEO presents an important opportunity for members of the board to collectively reflect on the unique challenges entailed in the leadership of a private foundation. While professional search firms usually have a profile in mind in terms of what constitutes an appropriate CEO candidate, in many ways the CEO role at a foundation is not a typical CEO position. To truly do justice to the position, the leader of a foundation should not only be able to articulate a vision, inspire confidence, and exemplify other classic qualities of leadership, s/he should also have the strength of character to manifest the unique values that characterize philanthropy at its best.

CEOs of grantmaking foundations occupy positions of immense privilege. They control access to significant sums of flexible capital and, for all intents and purposes, are accountable only to their boards. Typically, they have a significant amount of autonomy in how they choose to define their role, and it's not uncommon for a CEO to exert significant personal influence over the foundation's strategic priorities and grantmaking practices. For some boards, that equates to dynamic, visionary leadership. But there are potential pitfalls in the exercise of that privilege, and they can be damaging to the ultimate effectiveness of the institution. With the caveat that more than one of these traits often is evident in a single person, here are a few we've observed.

The CEO as Pundit

Compounding the significant privilege inherent in the CEO role is the likelihood that a foundation CEO will receive a daily shower of affirmation for his/her irreproachable wisdom and vision. To be susceptible to constant flattery is human. But unless the CEO makes a special effort to remain grounded, it's all too easy for him/her to succumb to the countless ego-gratifying opportunities to pontificate and exercise inappropriate personal influence over the agenda and daily operations of the foundation.

Internally, that can take the form of exercising an extreme form of control over every aspect of the foundation's work. Externally, a CEO may begin to feel the position qualifies him/her to offer regular opinions on the direction in which society should be moving, or even that the world of public affairs can uniquely benefit from the leadership of someone who is not beholden to the political process or company shareholders. Obviously, there is a role for foundation CEOs to speak out on issues of importance to their foundations, but it should be done in a thoughtful and intentional fashion that minimizes self-aggrandizement.

The CEO as Culture Weaver

Particularly if the CEO is embedded in a large organization, it's easy to misjudge and underestimate the unique internal management role s/he is expected to play within a foundation. Most foundations have a relatively small staff and embody something more akin to the culture of a family rather than an impersonal bureaucratized structure. That kind of culture calls for a leader who is aware of the critical importance of "soft skills" and is committed to a personalized approach to management.

Foundation CEOs also have a critical role to play in orchestrating the work of the staff. They are the one person in the organization that is uniquely situated to see the big picture and empowered to operate from that perspective. Finding the right balance in that role is a critical leadership success factor. Asking the right questions at the right time, guiding rather than controlling, and pushing for an appropriate synthesis of competing interests and ideas are essential aspects of the CEO role.

Rather than adopting a stereotypical "academic" style of leadership that by necessity cedes a high degree of autonomy to deans and departments, successful foundation CEOs should play a more integrative role, respecting and nurturing the talents of staff but also assertively articulating incentives for and the boundaries of effective cross-department collaboration that benefits the entire institution.

Above all, the CEO should take responsibility for focusing the foundation's attention and resources on opportunities within its field(s) of interest that are actionable. It takes special skill to translate compelling data and expert knowledge into a plan of action that effectively capitalizes on a foundation's unique strengths, and it takes real discernment to recognize where and how to creatively utilize the foundation's capacity for influence and maximum leverage.

The CEO as Wrangler

When it comes to dealing with the board, newly-minted CEOs display a tendency to demonstrate their leadership by asserting their point of view on every issue. Some even think that the best way to truly establish their authority is to ignore (or even disparage) the achievements of previous leaders. In the name of decisiveness, new CEOs also may feel compelled to move quickly to put their stamp on the organization and apply their spurs, as it were, to jolt their new mount into action.

In any truly mission-driven organization, however, recognizing and valuing the importance of the existing web of human relationships is another key leadership success factor. A new CEO's instinct may be to be seen as a doer able to quickly take charge. But, often, a more productive approach is to take the time to fully appreciate the talents and capabilities of current staff and observe and ask questions in order to capitalize on the strengths of the organization's existing culture before trying to introduce significant changes.

Particularly if a new CEO comes from a government or university setting and has little prior experience in working with a board of directors, it's essential that s/he invest the time and effort at the beginning of his/her tenure to understand and clarify the CEO role. No matter how much experience s/he might have in other management roles, being CEO is a qualitatively different kind of challenge. It's a role subject to ambiguity and hinges on one's ability to understand and appreciate nuance. It requires lots of intentional work to be sure everyone has a clear understanding of their respective roles, responsibilities, and organizational boundaries. Not devoting sufficient time or energy to those conversations at the outset is likely to set the stage for ongoing misunderstandings and associated difficulties.

It's also possible to overdo the listening. Foundations are notorious for taking as much as a year off from their grantmaking to think through the next phase of their evolution. The arrival of a new CEO frequently is the stimulus for a top-to-bottom assessment of a foundation's operations. Often, however, such a pause is perceived by the grantseeking public as self-indulgent and rarely of enough benefit to warrant the time and resources expended on it. Instead, it's important for new foundation CEOs to acknowledge and capitalize on whatever positive momentum they have inherited and to continue to move the herd forward while committing to learning and making appropriate adjustments in strategy and personnel along the way.

When and if the time comes to make changes in personnel, how those transitions are handled is of critical importance. Particularly if a program staff person has been part of the organization for some time, they are likely to have developed constituencies across the foundation's field(s) of interest. Organized philanthropy is a relatively tight-knit community: how people are treated by a new CEO can have significant ramifications for the reputation of the organization among its peers.

The CEO as Expert

Foundations tend to hire CEOs who are acknowledged experts in their areas of grantmaking. By that, we mean experts in the subject matter of greatest interest to the foundation. Often, experience in philanthropy itself is of secondary importance. There's a widespread belief that the era of the generalist is past, and that the future of foundations is best shaped by specialists.

Paradoxically, there can be unanticipated consequences to hiring a specialist as CEO that are not always to the benefit of the foundation. Experts tend to come with fully formed opinions about the most effective strategies to pursue. They have established networks of colleagues and may not be particularly open to expanding those networks. After all, if you're an expert, by definition you know what the best course of action is. It can also be exceedingly difficult for an acknowledged expert to extract him or herself from the details of the work to assume the critical "big picture" perspective referred to above.

Foundations are not universities or think tanks. They may manifest aspects of those institutions, but they have a unique opportunity — even an obligation — to not just follow the advice of academic experts but to look at problems in different ways, bring unexpected perspectives to bear, and craft strategies that move society forward. It's a unique space in the spectrum of organizations, and it takes a relentless curiosity and willingness to consider alternative solutions to use that privilege to full advantage. It may strike some as "old school," but a CEO whose greatest gift is a full appreciation of the potential of philanthropy may be a better fit to lead such an enterprise.

The CEO as Program Officer

It's tempting for a foundation CEO to want to also function as a kind of "uber" program officer. Having a "discretionary" grants budget at his/her disposal is a first step in that direction. It's quite common in the foundation world for a CEO to have a private pot of money from which s/he make grants at his/her discretion. When those funds are used for "corporate giving," in the sense of joining other foundation CEOs in making expected — and relatively modest — contributions to organizations or special events that support the field (e.g., to underwrite a conference), that's one thing. But it can be a slippery slope and quickly lead to more substantial resources being directed to a CEO's personal priorities, as opposed to those of the institution.

When a CEO is unable to resist being a grantmaker, it sets up several potentially unhealthy dynamics for a foundation. Grantseekers who enjoy a personal connection to the CEO quickly learn that they can sidestep the foundation's announced priorities and procedures and directly approach the CEO for support. And when they're successful, it not only sends a message to others in the community but also to those within the organization. Board members can begin to feel that it's appropriate for them to leverage their personal access to the CEO to secure funding for their own priorities, while grantmaking staff can be put in an uncomfortable, even untenable position.

A foundation may pride itself on the use of objective research and analysis in establishing its grantmaking priorities and making individual grant decisions. But when the CEO is playing by a different set of rules, it sends the wrong signal to staff about the integrity of the organization's processes and sets up an unfair competition for scarce resources. And when a CEO's personal priorities begin to consume a greater share of the foundation's grantmaking dollars, things can go sideways. Staff can be put in the position of not knowing what to anticipate. They may also have to "front" for those CEO decisions with the public while trying to keep to established procedures. Needless to say, it's not a pleasant position to find oneself in.

The CEO as Brand Icon

We live in an era where foundation boards are not just satisfied to support good work; they want to be publicly recognized for that work. As a result, the foundation world has embraced the kind of brand consciousness that was previously the purview of corporations, celebrities, and politicians. Corporate communications strategies that focus on grantee accomplishments without spotlighting the special contributions of the foundation (and its dynamic leader) are now passé.

When a foundation styles itself as a changemaker rather than as a grantmaker, the "brand promise" entails a different interpretation of the CEO role and a new set of criteria for hiring one. If a key component of a CEO's performance is to maintain a high public profile for the foundation, there is a real danger that philanthropic resources will be used to promote image and style at the expense of substance.

There's also a danger that a CEO's enthusiastic promotion of a personal brand can come to compete with the foundation's institutional brand. Some boards may not mind, but we are of the view that the foundation's mission and values, rather than any single person, should be the ultimate driver of its brand.

Securing and promoting a "name brand" CEO may be an accepted business strategy in our celebrity-obsessed culture, but the benefit to a philanthropic foundation is difficult to gauge. Indeed, as more foundations are coming to the realization that collaboration and funding partnerships are essential in addressing complex problems, a preoccupation with brand enhancement can most assuredly get in the way of genuinely collective ventures. Indeed, there is little incentive for a foundation to publicly admit to failure when it is focused on burnishing its brand as a pathfinding innovator. Foundations should think twice before heading down that path.

Headshot_julia_lopez_tom_david_compJulia Lopez is the former president and CEO of the College Futures Foundation (2008-17) and a former senior vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, where she provided oversight, management, and evaluation of the foundation's strategic program grantmaking. She has also served in roles in the California State Legislature, the New Mexico Department of Criminal Justice, and the San Francisco Department of Social Services and currently serves on the board of public radio station KQED in San Francisco. 

Tom David advises foundations and other public benefit organizations on matters of strategy, organizational learning, and evaluation. Until July 2004, he was director of organizational learning and evaluation at the Marguerite Casey Foundation in Seattle and, prior to that, served as executive vice president of the California Wellness Foundation, vice president of the S.H. Cowell Foundation, and senior program officer at the James Irvine Foundation. David (http://www.tdavid.net/) was the recipient of the 2002 Terrence Keenan Leadership Award in Health Philanthropy from Grantmakers in Health

5 Questions for…Lori Bezahler, President, Edward W. Hazen Foundation

In 2000, Lori Bezahler was young, idealistic and running the Education and Youth Services division of a large nonprofit in New York. She came across an ad that piqued her interest: Public Education Program Officer Edward W. Hazen Foundation. Bezahler was intrigued by the foundation’s idea that organizing could be used as a tool to change the conditions that adversely affect people’s lives, with a focus on communities of color and in the area of education. So she applied for and got the job. A few years later, in 2004, Barbara Taveras, the foundation's then-president, decided to step down. The foundation's board conducted a search for Taveras's replacement and chose Bezahler.

In the decade and a half since, Bezahler and the Hazen Foundation have been in the forefront of the movement for racial justice in American society, supporting the leadership of young people and communities of color in dismantling structural inequity based on race and class. To accelerate that work at this critical juncture, the Hazen board announced in March that the foundation would be spending down its endowment over the next five years in support of education and youth organizing, with a focus on racial justice.

PND spoke with Bezahler shortly after the board’s announcement to learn more about how and why the decision to spend down was made, how it will be executed, and what the foundation hopes to achieve over the next five years.

Headshot_lori_bezahlerPhilanthropy News Digest: The Hazen Foundation was established in 1925, making it one of the oldest private foundations in the United States. For decades, the foundation focused its resources on "the lack of values-based and religious instruction in higher education." Then, in the 1970s, it began to focus on public education and youth develop­ment, and in the late '80s it shifted its focus to community organizing for school reform. In 2009, under your leadership, the foundation made another shift, and began to focus more explicitly on race as the basis of oppression. Can you speak, broadly, to the process and the people who’ve helped shaped the foundation’s evolution over the last ninety-plus years?

Lori Bezahler: I'm glad you brought up the foundation's establishment, because I think Edward and Helen Hazen, the couple who created it, were really interesting people. They were childless themselves and were involved, during their lifetimes, in a number of char­ities that focused on young people. A lot of that work influenced the founding docu­ments of the foundation and its approach from the beginning, especially the importance of thinking about young people in terms of their whole selves, thinking about character development, about the way each of us incorporates our values and our beliefs into our lives. That's been a common thread through all the years and decades of the foundation's work. And over that span of time, a couple of people have been especially important in shaping the institu­tion that is Hazen today.

The first is Paul Ylvisaker, who was well known for the urban planning and anti-poverty work he did for the Johnson administration in the 1960s and later at the Ford Foundation, before becoming a dean at Harvard. He also was a trustee of the Hazen Foundation. From what I've read of our history and in board minutes and things like that he was influential in a number of ways. One was thinking about policies and their impact in broad structural terms. The other was the decision to recommend bringing Jean Fairfax, who just passed away at the age of 98, onto the board. At the time, Jean was a young African-American woman and lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and as far as we can tell from our research, she was the first African-American woman to be appointed to the board of a national foundation. In that role, she was instrumental in bringing attention to issues of race and representation by demanding that prospective grantees of the foundation share information about the demographics of their leadership, the nature of the community they served, and whether leadership was representative of that community. Jean was instrumental in moving the foundation's board to think more intentionally about where we, as an institution, put our dollars and the importance of self-determination.

There were others who followed in her footsteps. Sharon King led the foundation for a few years in the late 1980s, and it was under her leadership that the foundation began its work in the field of community organizing, or, as Sharon used to say, with organizations that had their feet in the community, that were grounded and embedded in the com­munity and not parachuting in, and that had leadership that was representative of the community.

After Sharon left, Barbara Taveras took over as president and really built out the foundation's understanding of organizing. She was very thoughtful in considering how a foundation could and should relate to the field through partnering, listening, and acting in a learning mode, rather than a prescriptive mode.

There were also a number of people who helped move the foundation in the direction of having an explicit focus on race. The person I would call out especially in that respect is Daniel HoSang, who was appointed to the board when he was at the Center for Third World Organizing and today is an associate professor of American studies and ethnic studies at Yale. Dan was a member of the board for ten years and really championed the idea that the foundation should specify race as a focus and think about it structurally rather than individually. He was crucial in that regard.

PND: Your board recently announced that the foundation was going to spend out its endowment over the next five years. How did that decision come about?

LB: The impetus to consider a dramatic change in how the foundation does business came about as the result of a sort of fundamental questioning of the foundation's role in a time that presents us all with great challenges but also great opportunities. It's a moment that is lifting up the potential and possibilities for the very work the Hazen Foundation has spent so many years doing. The relationships we've created, in the fields of youth organizing, racial and education justice; the way we've been able to bring that kind of work into the broader philanthropic conversation and raise it up to some of our peers and partners — all that figured into it.

And all those different factors caused us to pause and say, Are we stepping up? Are we doing everything we can be doing? Clearly, there are assumptions around perpetuity in philan­thropy, and they're based on some good thinking. I'm not saying that perpetuity is ridiculous — it's not. If you look at the numbers, you actually spend more over time, it gives you the opportunity to build something and be there for the long haul.

But there are moments when it's not enough, when the damage done by misguided policies or irresponsible leadership in the short-term will have ripple effects across time that demand you think differently about how you use your resources. And when, on top of that, there's an established body of work that you can build on to do something meaningful by concentrating your resources — well then you don't really have a choice.

That was the question we asked ourselves, and the process to get to the announcement took nearly two years. We did a lot of research, everything from literature scans to interviews to surveys. We talked to lots of people in the field, including our grantees and partners. We talked to people who had served in leadership roles in other spend-down institutions and asked them what worked and what didn't work, what were the pros and what were the cons. We looked at other options besides spending down. And we did a lot of financial modeling. I mean, we conducted an enormous amount of research, because I think the board felt very strongly that if we were going to do this, if we were going to turn out the lights on this institution and the work we have been supporting over many decades, it's got to be done in a way that is meaningful. The approach was deliberate and rational, but we also did a lot of soul searching about what it all meant and whether we were doing everything possible to fulfill the mission of the institution or whether there was something different we needed to do.

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Notre-Dame de Paris: What Can Philanthropy Learn?

April 30, 2019

AP_France_Notre_Dame_FireLike most people who have lived or spent time in Paris, I experienced a deep sadness that quickly turned to tears, anger, and confusion as the news flashed across social media that the great cathedral of Notre-Dame was burning. The blow to French identity, and the sense of loss for all of us who hold Paris dear, was and is profound.

Within days, my despair had given way to faint hope as I read news stories detailing pledges of more than €900 million from some of France's wealthiest families toward the reconstruction of the cathedral. But that hope soon gave way to feelings of guilt. Just weeks ago, Cyclone Idai smashed into southeastern Africa, leaving more than a thousand people dead and thousands more missing in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. It was a disaster of epic proportions that went largely unreported in the Western media and generated little in the way of disaster recovery funding. While I felt frustration at the contrast between the philanthropic response to the two events, I probably wasn’t as angry as I should have been. The fact I felt conflicted about what philanthropy could and was willing to do to save Notre-Dame versus the enormous challenge of mitigating human suffering and building peaceful societies, not just in Africa but around the world, has been haunting me ever since. And the juxtaposition of the two responses underscores a complex societal problem.

People's engagement with issues tends to be driven by their values and passions. Giving is shaped by the many different and connected parts of human psychology, and Notre-Dame was a classic example of giving driven by emotion (and, in the case of certain French billionaires, a healthy dose of ego). The fire was a blow to a collective French identity rooted in a distant, romanticized past, and the immediate outpouring of support for restoring the cathedral to its former glory was a way to stand in solidarity with that past and make oneself feel good in the bargain.

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Taxes, Inequality, and the Public Good

April 26, 2019

Taxes_flickrCan wealthy Americans use philanthropy to fend off Democratic proposals for progressive, much-needed tax reform? That certainly seems to be what tech billionaire Michael Dell had in mind on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos a few months ago. Confronted with the idea that the United States should adopt a 70 percent marginal tax rate on annual incomes of over $10 million — something it last saw in the 1960s under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations — Dell said he would be "much more comfortable" giving back to society through his private foundation "than giving…to the government." Other superrich donors have expressed similar feelings, with some actually having the chutzpah to equate the civic obligation of paying taxes with charity.

It's evident to anyone paying attention that private philanthropy can never replace the almost three trillion in budget cuts included in the Trump administration's 2020 budget or the trillions in deficits that the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act is likely to create over the next decade.

Trump, Michael Dell, and other members of the 1 percent club — who now control as much wealth as the bottom 95 percent of Americans — are going to need a better argument if they hope to convince the large majority (70 percent) of registered voters who believe that the superrich should be paying higher marginal rates.

And the very rich will need more than a preference for philanthropy over taxes to convince the 61 percent of Americans who favor a "wealth tax" of 2 percent on those with more than $50 million in assets and 1 percent on top of that for those with more than $1 billion. To the consternation of Dell, the 25th richest man in the world, an even larger percentage of Americans believe that government should pursue policies designed to reduce the huge and growing wealth gap in America — policies that go beyond just raising tax revenue.

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5 Questions for...Jane Wales, Co-Founder/CEO, Global Philanthropy Forum

April 25, 2019

As she was nearing the end of her fourth five-year term heading up the World Affairs Councils, Jane Wales decided it was time to let someone else run the show — an effort that includes organizing the annual Global Philanthropy Forum, which she co-founded in 2001 and which has evolved into a platform where philanthropic practitioners can share their knowledge and learnings with social investors, donors, and funders in other sectors.

PND caught up with Wales, who continues to serve as vice president and executive director of the Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation at the Aspen Institute, during the recently concluded eighteenth annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference and spoke with her about the challenges confronting liberal democracy in an era of rising populism, the alarming decline in the public's trust of institutions, and her hopes for the philanthropic sector going forward.

Headshot_jane_walesPhilanthropy News Digest: You and your colleagues chose to organize this year's Global Philanthropy Forum conference around the theme "Reclaiming Democracy." Why?

Jane Wales: We're seeing a concerning trend of liberal democracies around the world shifting to illiberalism. These are places in which the vote remains sacrosanct — where citizens have the right to vote — but the protection of individual civil liberties is not. We see this is happening in the Philippines, in Turkey, in Poland and Hungary, South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, and the United States. And you can't say it's all due to a cultural shift or particular event. Clearly, there are underlying trends affecting us all. The question then becomes: How do you push back on those trends? What is the role of philanthropy in building social capital and citizen agency? And what are the most important ingredients of a successful democracy? The theme of the conference is about identifying a big problem, but it’s a problem for which civil society has solutions.

PND: What are those solutions?

JW: The underlying trends being discussed here have to do with the confluence of the information revolution and globalization, as well as the major demographic changes we're seeing in many countries. Conference attendees are looking at each of these powerful trends and trying to figure out what are the upsides, what are the downsides, and how can we mitigate the danger they pose?

When it comes to the information revolution, we're looking at the role of digital media and social media in sowing division. When it comes to globalization, the upside is that it has lifted millions of people out of poverty and created great wealth — and a considerable amount of that wealth has been directed to the public good. But globalization has also created a situation in which the standard of living for the middle class in many countries is declining, and that has contributed to divisions — not just along political and economic lines, but also along educational lines, because the opportunities and outcomes for college graduates and high school graduates are significantly different. Inequity results.

In terms of demographic change, the most powerful concerns are mass migration in the face of deadly conflict or natural disasters on the one hand and normal immigration flows on the other. That begs the question not only of what needs to be done to prevent crises but also what is needed to forge a comprehensive immigration policy that the majority of Americans and other publics will support. We also need to think through what can and should be done to help newly arrived people integrate into the society that will be their new home. Nonprofits are already doing exceptional work in this area.

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From 'Tribal' Knowledge to Technology: How Data Can Supercharge Your Nonprofit

April 24, 2019

Nonprofit_working_spaceTeam members at nonprofit organizations often feel a special kinship. Everyone strives to deliver on the organization's mission and is passionate about the same thing — having a positive impact on people's lives and within their communities. In effect, the nonprofit you work for is like a "tribe" — a group of people bound together by a shared interest, a shared vocabulary, and specialized knowledge.

Many nonprofits rely on their staff's collective experience and "tribal knowledge" — undocumented information that is unavailable to those outside the organization — to keep things running smoothly. While both are invaluable, operating in such a manner tends to create gaps in actionable information. And it leaves the organization vulnerable to losing critical institutional knowledge when long-serving staff members retire or move on professionally. 

What's a nonprofit to do? 

Simply put, nonprofits need to be more efficient when capturing organizational knowledge, leveraging the experience of staff, and translating staff insights into action. How? 

With software and historical data. 

Filling Critical Gaps With Data

Better support for participants. Historical data can provide nonprofits with valuable insights that intuition or gut instinct alone cannot. Let's say a fifth-grade student in an afterschool tutoring program is scoring at a seventh-grade reading level. Intuition tells you the student needs to be challenged. But data can show you:

  • which strategies have worked for similar students in the past
  • which K-12 accelerated reading programs best fit the needs of the student
  • how to quantitatively measure the success of your strategies 

Data gathered from digital tools can help the organization answer the above questions and create a program for the student that both stimulates and challenges her. And just as importantly, it will enable the organization to provide customized support for all participants in the program — all the time.

Putting hours back in the day. You probably work in the social sector because you have a keen desire to help others. Spending hours each day on administrative work (like data entry) can undermine that desire, while wasting valuable time on tasks that could (and should) be automated only adds to your stress. You may feel pressure to "make up" that time, but rushing through routine data-entry tasks can lead to mistakes that might have been avoided if you weren't so pressed for time. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 20-21, 2019)

April 21, 2019

Redacted-Legal-Documents-1And...we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Disabilities

In a post on the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog, the foundation's Noorain Khan and Catherine Townshend update readers on the foundation's disability inclusion journey.

Diversity

On the GrantSpace blog, Julieta Mendez, director of programs at Candid, explains how the organization's DEI programs are supporting the social sector.

Education

"Seven years after the state passed a law that required Maine’s high schools to award diplomas on the basis of demonstrated 'proficiency' in eight key areas, and nine months after the legislature repealed that mandate, the debate over proficiency-based diplomas continues to divide districts, teachers and families...even as the concept spreads to other schools and states." Kelly Field reports for the Hechinger Report.

Health

A proposed Trump administration rule to allow employers to fund individual, tax-preferred accounts for employees rather than cover them under employer-sponsored group plans could shift individuals from employee-sponsored plans to state-regulated individual markets and end up destabilizing those markets. Georgetown University professors JoAnn Volk and Kevin Lucia dig into the details on the Commonwealth Fund's To The Point blog.

Impact/Effectiveness

Charity Navigator, in partnership with Feedback Labs, Candid, GlobalGiving, Listen for Good, Acumen, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Bridges Fund Management, Development Gateway, and Keystone Accountability, has announced the release of version 1.0 of the Principles of Constituent Feedback, an effort to begin collecting and publishing the reflections of nonprofits on their feedback practice before #GivingTuesday 2019.

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5 Questions for Rolf Huber, Managing Director, Siemens Stiftung

April 20, 2019

In March, Siemens Stiftung, a nonprofit foundation created by Siemens AG, the German multinational conglomerate, established WE!Hub Victoria Ltd, a social enterprise based in Kisumu, Kenya, to bring innovative solutions related to drinking water and energy supplies to communities on the shores of Lake Victoria. Branded as WeTu ("ours" in Swahili), the initiative also plans to bring electric vehicles to rural Africa for the first time.

Recently, the folks at Sympra, a Stuttgart-based consulting firm, spoke with Rolf Huber, managing director of Siemens Stiftung, about the project.

Headshot_rold huberSympra: Why did Siemens Stiftung establish WeTu?

Rolf Huber: We strongly believe in a business approach to social and environmental problems: self-sustaining, environmentally-friendly business models can be used to meet sustainability goals and achieve social development in rural Africa. This is why WeTu is a social enterprise with clear goals pertaining to social, economic, and ecological outcomes. The business model is based on technology solutions that have been specifically developed for rural Africa.

In our experience, self-sustaining and financially independent solutions are possible when the ideas contributed by local communities are matched with regional and international networks and knowledge. Through our Impact Hub network, we've set up several entrepreneurial centers in African cities. And we were actively involved in We!Hub, the previous version of this project on Lake Victoria, meaning we know the region, the communities, and the potential business models quite well.

Sympra: How would you describe the situation on the ground?

RH: It's a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, we see enormous potential. There are many, highly-motivated young people who want to improve their quality of life. They want to seize opportunities and they have a real entrepreneurial spirit.

But on the other hand, there is 20 percent youth unemployment in the region — toxically frustrating for such a young society. Beyond that, access to basic goods is not always guaranteed. The drinking water situation is also dire. Many people continue to drink contaminated water straight from Lake Victoria. Pollution threatens the livelihoods of local communities that depend on income derived from fishing in the lake. There is poor infrastructure in rural areas: streets are bad, if they exist at all, which create challenges for transporting goods like food or drinking water. These are significant hurdles when it comes to development.

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Addressing Drug Addiction: A Major Opportunity for Private Philanthropy

April 19, 2019

AddictionDrug overdoses kill more people in the United States than guns or car accidents and are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seventy-two thousand people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2017, compared to sixty-four thousand in 2016.

Despite this growing substance-abuse epidemic, private philanthropy has been barely visible when it comes to addressing the crisis and supporting new approaches to addiction treatment based on scientific research. This is especially surprising given that substance abuse is having such a broad impact among individuals and families of means.

While the University of Indiana Lilly Family School of Philanthropy's recently issued Philanthropy Outlook projects that individual charitable giving will increase 2.1 percent in 2019 and 3.4 percent in 2020, there is no reason to believe that a meaningful portion of these dollars will be directed to addiction treatment and research. At the same time, many foundations have made the strategic decision to focus on the "upstream" social and economic factors that lead to addiction.

The reality is that drug addiction has become the deadliest public health crisis in recent U.S. history, and the funding gap that exists between the problem and solutions to address the problem will not be closed without significant private funding.

Why Private Sector Giving?

It's imperative that the private sector become a major contributor to solutions aimed at addressing the substance abuse epidemic. The reasons are varied, but key among them is that healthcare policy too often discriminates against those with addiction issues, while insurance companies have been reluctant to provide coverage for people who are addicted. Moreover, many federal and state agencies are focused on an "arrest and incarcerate" approach and often ignore the root causes of addiction such as family history, child abuse, and so on.

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What's New at Candid (April 2019)

April 17, 2019

Candid logoAs Foundation Center and GuideStar enter their third month as a single organization, staff are forging ahead with the work of integrating workflows, sharing ideas, and developing solutions. It's exciting! And like many other nonprofits at this time of year, we're out and about at conferences and events and knee-deep in projects scheduled to launch later this year.

Here are some of the highlights from March:

Projects Launched

  • In partnership with Sustain Arts and See Chicago Dance, we published a new report, Mapping the Dance Landscape in Chicagoland. The Chicago region is a hub for arts and culture and boasts a thriving dance community, and the report can be used to identify trends, opportunities, and challenges facing dancers, dance organizations, and the field as a whole.
  • On CF Insights, our annual Columbus Survey is now open. The U.S. community foundation data collected by the survey provides a snapshot of the field and can be used to inform the financial and operational decisions made by community foundation staff. You can learn more about last year's survey results here — and be sure to check back for the results of this year's survey later this spring.
  • Glasspockets reached a milestone when the Walton Family Foundation became the one hundredth foundation to commit to sharing its transparency self-assessment profile on the Glasspockets website. Janet Camarena and her team also debuted new Transparency Levels (Core, Advanced, & Champion) designed in partnership with active Glasspockets foundations and sponsored by, yes, the Walton Family Foundation.

Data Spotlight

  • As the 2020 U.S. presidential election begins to take shape, we continue to track how foundations are supporting implementation, research, reform, and or/mobilization efforts related to campaigns, elections, and voting on our Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy. According to Candid data, more than $555 million has been granted by 845 funders in support of campaigns, elections, and voting since 2011. Of that total, $136 million has taken the form of general/unrestricted support, while $69.2 million has targeted racial and ethnic minorities.
  • To date in 2019, we've recorded over 5,000 registrations for our webinars and self-paced elearning courses and have handled more than 18,000 questions through our knowledge base.
  • We completed custom data searches for the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania, Humboldt University of Berlin, Philanthropy Ohio, the Philanthropy Roundtable, and the Walton Family Foundation.

In the News

What We're Excited About

Upcoming Conferences and Events

It's conference season! Candid staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • A total of 231,299 new grants added to Foundation Maps in March, of which 2,665 were made to 1,920 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online continues to support everything needed in a fundraising tool. Now you can build more robust prospect lists and see how much funders are giving based on your mission.
  • Candid’s webinar participants continue to gain practical skills and report an increase in confidence after taking one of our webinars. In a recent survey, 88 percent reported that they had gained a specific skill, tool, or strategy that enabled them to advance their work, while 95 percent said they expected to apply what they had learned in the webinar within the year.
  • Twenty-two participants from Northeast Ohio participated in a three-day Proposal Writing Boot Camp. Check out all 2019 boot camp dates here.
  • The Funding Information Network now boasts thirteen training partners. FINs are locations around the country where you can access Candid resources for free and take a scheduled class. Learn more about the Funding Information Network program here.
  • New data sharing partners: Barr Family Foundation, Better Way Foundation, Callison Foundation, District of Columbia Bar Foundation, Hamer D. & Phyllis C. Shafer Foundation Charitable Trust, and Victorian Women's Benevolent Trust. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • New customers: Purposeful is using our data and APIs, the Barr Foundation is using our Premier API, and a UK site called Social Bite is licensing our data to help with their cause (homelessness). We also added North Carolina State, George Washington University, and the University of Richmond to our roster of Library services clients.

Content Published

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

The Importance of Donor Data and How to Use It Effectively

April 12, 2019

Data-analysisFundraising professionals don't need to be told that donors are more likely to support an organization if they feel they understand the work the organization does and that you, the fundraiser, value their investment in that work.

The key question, then, is: How can I effectively communicate with and develop relationships with donors that improve the odds of my organization retaining and even growing their support? And it follows that one of the biggest challenges nonprofits face in strengthening their donor relationships is not being able to seeand understand their donor data.

Given everything you do as a fundraising professional for your organization, the prospect of adding more data gathering and analytics to your tasks surely is concerning. Unfortunately, it isn't a task you can afford to ignore. Indeed, the success of your nonprofit depends on your ability to engage with donor data.

The good news? There's no reason to feel overwhelmed by yet another item on your to-do list. Donor data can be managed and used efficiently — you just have to have a little knowledge and the right tools.

Donor data encompasses several different areas and, when used effectively, can accomplish a lot. But first, you need to ask yourself some basic questions:

  1. Why should I bother to collect donor data?
  2. What kind of data should I track and collect?
  3. How do I keep the data organized?
  4. What can I do with the data?

Why should I collect donor data? 

A big part of your job as a nonprofit development professional is cultivate prospective donors and maintain relationships with existing donors. You organize fundraising campaigns and look for opportunities for your nonprofit to engage with the community to raise awareness of your cause.

Every donor interaction or community engagement results in new data. Collecting and analyzing that data allows you to:

Continue reading »

'Future-Fit' Philanthropy: Why Philanthropic Organizations Will Need Foresight to Leave a Lasting Legacy of Change

April 10, 2019

Future_start_gettyimages_olm26250To be considered transformational, any philanthropic organization should aim for lasting impacts that go beyond their immediate beneficiaries. Yet, in the face of what the UK's Ministry of Defense recently characterized as "unprecedented acceleration in the speed of change, driving ever more complex interactions between [diverse] trends," the longer-term future of philanthropy, and the success of individual programs, are at risk as never before.

Philanthropy is already trying to deliver on a hugely ambitious vision of a better future. Taking the Sustainable Development Goals as one marker, this includes, within just over a decade, ending poverty, ending hunger, and delivering universal healthcare. Progress is struggling to match aspirations: the UN has found that globally, hunger is on the rise again and malaria rates are up due to antimicrobial resistance.

With the accelerating pace of change, new trends are set to bring huge opportunities — and threats — often both at once. Two examples: new technologies in the field of synthetic biology, and the fourth Industrial Revolution. Other trends — climate change, demographic shifts, democratic rollback — may be familiar, but their pace, trajectory, and impact remain radically uncertain.

The trends of the coming ten to twenty years have the potential to reverse hard-won progress, distort the outcomes of interventions, radically change the geography and distribution of need, and outpace the philanthropy business model altogether.

Continue reading »

Candid Deepens Commitment to Communities

April 09, 2019

In February 2019, Foundation Center and GuideStar joined forces to become Candid. Read our press release for more context on why we made this move.

Candid logoBringing Candid's vision to life means we’ll need to take a transformative approach to delivering our programs and services to nonprofits — on the ground and online. Some of Candid's many core assets include the resources that you have come to rely on from Foundation Center: our virtual and in-person trainings; Foundation Directory Online (FDO), our signature database for finding funding; Grantspace.org, our one-stop online portal for nonprofit professionals; and our Funding Information Network (FIN), which comprises of 400+ mission-aligned partners in the U.S. and across the globe providing on-the-ground support to strengthen their communities.

As Candid, we'll deepen our investment in these existing services. We'll double-down on our efforts to share the most up-to-date information on what it takes to build impact-ready, sustainable organizations. And as the world's largest source of information on nonprofit organizations, we'll be able to deliver to you the most up-to-date data and intelligence you need.

Through our network of FIN partners, we'll ensure that our services are available, far and wide. In all locations outside of our New York headquarters, we'll be making a shift from operating our own libraries to focusing on enhanced offerings for libraries and other community-based organizations through our FIN program. Pairing the focus on the FIN with direct delivery of trainings by our team via pop-up programs across our existing key markets — and regionally — will further enable us to deepen and widen accessibility to our resources to communities, small and large. Read on for more details.

What does this mean for Candid's library resource centers in the U.S.?

By the end of 2019, we will move our Atlanta and Cleveland teams into a shared space with partner organizations. We will combine our GuideStar and Foundation Center offices in San Francisco/Oakland and Washington, D.C. (Foundation Center staff will move into GuideStar locations in these cities). We will no longer provide in-person library services at these locations. Rather than asking you to come to us for in-person training or access to our fundraising tools, our team will be coming to a neighborhood near you: we’ve already scheduled pop-up visits and trainings at local FINs or other convenient places around the country and look forward to seeing you there.

Our public space in New York will continue to operate in its current form (still providing library services and trainings) and will eventually take on more of an incubator/laboratory role, enabling us to test new training programs, tweak, and systematize them so that we can deliver new content to the field. We'll also begin experimenting with local programming close to Williamsburg, Virginia, where a large contingency of Candid team members are based.

Note that Candid will continue providing direct online reference services at grantspace.org, and we'll further build out our eBooks collection, ensuring anytime, anywhere access to our online collection of information resources.

How will Candid's training programs change?

Short-term: They won't. Our team will continue delivering services and trainings to meet the needs of our community. We are committed to delivering all the great in-person programs that we're known for — from cohort learning circles to Proposal Writing Boot Camps, to larger annual convenings. The only difference is that we will host many of these programs out in the community rather than in our own offices.

Long-term: Candid's programs will only get better. Combining Foundation Center's rich data and research skills with the robust services provided by GuideStar will lead to an expanded — and more diverse — portfolio of offerings to you. 2019 will be a year of strategizing and planning for a future where we can better serve the community we care about most: you.

Who can you contact if you have more questions?

Please don't hesitate to reach out to any of our team members with questions or ideas:

Candid West (San Francisco): Michele Ragland Dilworth
Candid Northeast (New York + Washington, D.C.): Kim Buckner Patton
Candid South (Atlanta): Maria Azuri
Candid Midwest (Cleveland): Teleangé Thomas

We are thrilled for the opportunity this new operating model presents Candid; one in which we can more deliberately activate our time and talent to build the capacity of communities large and small, while we continue to deepen our programmatic impact in the cities where our staff are based. As always, you can connect with me directly to brainstorm on how we can serve you better.

Zohra Zori is vice president for social sector outreach at Candid.

______

Learn more about what Candid can offer you today
Learn more about GrantSpace's live and on-demand trainings
Learn more about the Funding Information Network
Learn more about our eBooks lending program

[Review] 'Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count'

April 03, 2019

Back in 2016, Bill Gates, in the context of his partnership with the Heifer Foundation to donate 100,000 chickens to people around the world living on $2 a day, blogged about how raising egg-laying fowl can be a smart, cost-effective antidote to extreme poverty. As Phil Buchanan tells it in Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, the idea, however well-intentioned, attracted scorn from some quarters, including Bolivia, where the offer was declined — after it was pointed out that the country already produces some 197 million chickens a year. The episode is a pointed reminder that being an effective philanthropist isn't as easy as it might seem.

GDR_image-quote_4DonorsPage4-600x300And Buchanan ought to know; as the founding CEO of the Cambridge-based Center for Effective Philanthropy for the past seventeen years, he has worked closely with more than three hundred foundations and scores of individual givers, exploring the landscape of American giving, distilling lessons learned (both successes and failures), and highlighting what works and what doesn't. (Spoiler alert: there's no single answer as to how to give "right," but few are better positioned than Buchanan to frame the question.) In this slim volume, he lays out a framework that can help anyone engaged in philanthropy to be more thoughtful, open-minded, and willing to learn, adapt, and keep trying.

As Buchanan sees it, anyone can be an effective philanthropist, and there is no one best practice to that end, other than to be as engaged as one can be. While much of the advice he shares is better suited for the well-heeled donor or the program officer at an established foundation (those with the time and resources to think through larger issues, consider options, and evaluate methods for learning from their giving), the panhandler's dictum applies: you don't need to be a Rockefeller to help a fella, and you don't need to be a tech billionaire to carve out a smart, sustainable path for your own giving. Certainly, to give is better than not to give, and if all you have the time to do is to write a check, do that. But if you want to effect lasting change — to move the needle, as it were — then you need to dig in and think long-term.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (March 2019)

April 01, 2019

It's April 1 and you're no fool — which is why you'll want to settle in with a glass of your favorite beverage and check out some of the posts PhilanTopic readers couldn't get enough of in March. We'll be back with new material in a day or two. Enjoy!

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

7 Things One Family Foundation Is Doing to End Poverty

March 29, 2019

End_povertyThe Skees Family Foundation (SFF) is just one of the more than 86,000 private foundations in the United States, and with a corpus of just over $2 million, we're consistently the smallest foundation in the room at any peer gathering. Undeterred by the magnitude of the challenge, however, we've invested $1.7 million over fifteen years in efforts to end poverty. Along the way, we've learned a few things about how to leverage our funding:

1. Philanthropy of the hands. We named SFF after the grandparents (my parents) who struggled to feed their seven children but always added a dollar to the church basket and could find an hour when needed for community volunteering. Hugh and Jasmine believed in giving whatever they had: Hugh donated blood to the American Red Cross and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and the Dayton International Peace Museum, while Jasmine sang in the church choir, crocheted prayer shawls, and visited with surgery and hospice patients. They taught us that so many of things we take for granted — abundant food, clean water, shelter, good health, security — were not ours because we deserved them but because of a combination of luck (being born in a stable, prosperous country) and hard work. They also taught us that all humans are created equal, deserve equal access to respect and opportunities, and are part of one big family. Their legacy — of humility, gratitude, and belonging — may seem idealistic in today's polarized world, but it's the core value on which all of our own families and careers, as well as our philanthropic collaborations, are based.

2. Diversity of viewpoints. SFF unites more than forty family members ranging in age from nine to ninety-one. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Socialists, occupy different places along the gender spectrum, are of many different ethnicities and nationalities, and work at a range of occupations, from nurse and nanny to soldier, salesman, accountant, Web developer, and writer. Each family member is invited to collaborate on an annual grant to an organization that reflects his or her passion for a cause — whether it's self-esteem training for at-risk young girls in California, tutoring and job skills development for young men in Chicago looking to make a new start after time spent in a gang or jail, or business skills training for a beekeeping women’s co-op in Haiti. As well, members of each of our three generations convene biannually to select grant partners with expertise in a specific area — whether it's mental health, veterans' issues, or survivors of trafficking — that are near and dear to their heart. When it comes to our major multiyear grants, we encourage loving debate by members of our all-family volunteer board, with a focus on programs that have the potential to reach the greatest number of people and to create a holistic ecosystem of respect and care.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...James Cadogan, Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

March 27, 2019

Arnold Ventures (formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation) has been a leading supporter of criminal justice reform since 2011. Under the leadership of James Cadogan, vice president of criminal justice, the organization recently launched the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, a community of practice involving more than two dozen Arnold Ventures grantees working to eliminate unnecessary and unjust detention practices, with new investments totaling $39 million.

Cadogan joined the organization after serving as the inaugural director of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and as a counselor to the attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he helped design comprehensive federal reentry reforms; served as a lead staffer on an initiative to reduce the use of solitary confinement at the Federal Bureau of Prisons; developed national community policing initiatives; and supported access to justice programs.

PND asked Cadogan about the initiative's goals, the emerging field of pretrial justice reform, and the role of pretrial justice reform in advancing racial equity.

James Cadogan_PhilanTopic_squarePhilanthropy News Digest: Your organization is on record as saying "money bail obscures legally required risk analyses, traps people in jail, and contributes to unconscionable racial and economic disparities in our justice system." How does the cash bail system exacerbate the mass incarceration of people of color? And how central to the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice is the goal of advancing racial and economic equity?

James Cadogan: A fundamental principle of our justice system is the presumption of innocence: the idea that, when accused of a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But across the country — right now — there are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in jail who haven't been convicted of any crime, nearly half a million at any given moment. They haven't even been tried. That's because of our current system of money bail.

Generally, after an individual is arrested they go before a judge who reads the charges and sets bail — an amount of money that the arrestee must pay in order to be set free. If you can pay that money, you go free; if you can't afford it, you go to jail. In other words, the size of your bank account determines your freedom. Simply put: that is unjust.

To avoid jail, those who can't afford to pay the bail amount directly might turn to a bail bondsman who can post the amount with the court while charging the individual a fee, often 10 percent of the bail amount. But if bail is set at $2,000, many people are equally unable to afford the $200 fee a bondsman would charge as the $2,000 bail imposed by the court. The money bail system discriminates against the poor — and people of color are disproportionately poor. Research has also shown that people of color are treated more harshly within the money bail system: for example, African-American men on average receive 35 percent higher bail amounts than white men who are arrested for the exact same crime.

PND: Arnold Ventures, formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, has supported pretrial justice reform since 2011 — support that has included efforts to increase transparency around and the use of validated, evidence-based risk assessments in judges' decisions to release or detain defendants. Beyond strengthening implementation of the Public Safety Assessment— which was created from a database of more than 1.5 million cases in over three hundred jurisdictions — what is the partnership planning to do to reduce "unnecessary and unjust detention"?

JC: Pretrial detention rates are driven by a number of decisions and processes under the control of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court administrators, and other system actors and stakeholders. The National Partnership intentionally connects and elevates partners with different types of expertise — for example, research, policy development, or litigation — and supports them in taking on projects that span a range of pretrial justice challenges such as evaluating the impact of bail practices, working to expand the use of prosecutorial diversion that moves people out of the criminal just system, or undertaking advocacy related to the impossible caseloads many public defenders face.

Pretrial justice practices and operations vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so the breadth of the work we support to reduce unjust pretrial detention is important: National Partnership initiatives span four hundred counties across thirty-five states. At this pivotal time in the pretrial justice reform movement, it's important to understand that even though experts nationwide may have different approaches and don't agree on everything, they're all committed to the same end goal: reducing our unconscionable rates of pretrial detention. By supporting a diversity of efforts, we can help harness that momentum in a variety of places and spaces across the country and give ourselves the best chance of bringing about lasting policy change in pretrial justice. That's where see the biggest value of the partnership.

Continue reading »

3 Ways to Educate Donors About Movement Building

March 26, 2019

DownloadAt your most recent meeting with donors, you probably discussed the impact of your programs and perhaps even asked for commitments for the upcoming fiscal year. Did you also talk to them about funding the movement itself to ensure its future viability and success?

Donors typically give for two reasons: 1) to leverage gifts from other donors; and/or 2) in response to short-term needs. In both cases, the impact of their gifts plays out across two dimensions: helping bring others to the cause, and helping the people or cause served by your organization.

So while it's common for nonprofits to pitch donors in terms of the tangible difference their gifts will make for intended beneficiaries or the cause, organizations also need to learn how to demonstrate to donors the value of supporting the broader movement itself.

How to build a movement

Over the years I've been involved in movement building, clients often have shared with me the names of donors they believe are open to taking a broader view of the movement. On occasion, clients even have asked me to speak with certain individuals to gauge their interest in funding movement-building activities and to share any thoughts I might have about the approach they should take in subsequent conversations with those donors.

Below, I share some of what I've learned from my interactions with donors in the belief it will give you something new you can use in your conversations with donors to educate them about the importance of movement building.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 23-24, 2019)

March 24, 2019

Robert-mueller-gty-ps-190212_hpMain_16x9_992A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

On the Communications Network blog, Katie Smith Milway, principal at Milway Media and a senior advisor at the Bridgespan Group, and Rick Moyers, director of communications at the Fund for Shared Insight, explore four lessons in effective storytelling they have learned while shepherding a campaign to encourage client feedback as a measurement norm.

Current Affairs

"Thirty years from now, a majority of Americans believe that the U.S. will be less globally important. They believe that the inequality gap between rich and poor will have widened. And they expect that there will be even more political polarization. That future sounds pretty bleak, especially given the fact that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans are at least fairly worried that current politicians aren’t capable of changing it." Fast Company's Ben Paynter talks to Brookings' David Wessel about what can be done to shape a brighter future for all Americans.

Health

On the Robert Wood Johnson's Culture of Health blog, Dwayne Proctor, a senior advisor to the foundation's president, speaks with Yolo Akili Robinson, a 2018 Award for Health Equity winner, about how the stress of being black in America leads to physiological responses that raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Nonprofits

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther continues his series on workplace problems at the Humane Society of the U.S. and concludes that the organization's efforts to hold itself accountable for the actions of its former leader, Wayne Pacelle, are "unsatisfying."

Yes, the doubling of the standard deduction poses real challenges for nonprofits. But the challenge s also an opportunity, writes Social Velocity's Nell Edgington, to embrace — truly embrace — change. 

Can Marie Kondo help you "tidy up" your organization? Definitely, says Nonprofit AF's Vu Le, who then shares ten lessons derived Kondo's method guaranteed to make you more joyful at work.

Continue reading »

5 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Donor Data

March 20, 2019

Prospect-research-ds-pngYour nonprofit understands the value of a personalized approach when it comes to communicating with donors. When its collects and uses donor data effectively, it's able to tailor its outreach strategy to individual donors and strengthen its relationships with them.

Your data becomes especially useful when you're able to see and use it to develop an outreach strategy that acknowledges donors' reasons for supporting your organization. In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can use donor data to help your organization:

  1. automate parts of the data collection process;
  2. reach out to donors more effectively;
  3. identify opportunities for matching gifts;
  4. create and distribute an effective annual report; and
  5. thank your donors personally.

For your fundraising efforts to succeed, your outreach strategy needs to be both personalized to your donors and efficient in terms of organizational resources. It's easier to strike this balance when you've automated parts of the process.

1. Automate parts of the data collection process. Prospect research is key to unlocking effective nonprofit fundraising. And the data you collect is especially valuable as you create outreach strategies for different groups of donors. That's why you need to automate prospect research data collection wherever possible.

One way to automate the process is to integrate your prospect research software with the CRM in which you store donor data. Whether they're newly minted or a long-time donor, you'll learn:

  • Who has a history of giving. Good prospect research will include a donor’s history of giving to your organization as well as their history of giving to other nonprofits.
  • Who is capable of making a major gift. If your current lower or mid-level donors have made major gifts to other organizations, your prospect research software should be able to capture this information and store it in your CRM.
  • Who you need to reach out. The data captured by your prospect research software can help your team prioritize your outreach to certain donors who have positive indicators for potential giving.

After your organization has supplemented the donor information already stored in your CRM with prospect research data, you should have plenty of data you can use to connect with donors. If you're using Salesforce, you can even integrate prospect research software from vendors like DonorSearch to further automate the data collection process.

Continue reading »

What's New at Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar) (March 2019)

March 19, 2019

Candid logoMarch brings the first days of Spring and the beginning of new things. At Candid, we've been marking new beginnings with game-changing training programs and convenings, attendance at great conferences, and valuable research. Here are some of the recent highlights:

Projects Launched

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to capacity building, but a new series of GrantCraft case studies provides funders with networking and collaboration insights that can empower their grantees to invest in capacity building. Each case study has been developed in partnership with Community Wealth Partners and draws on that organization's capacity-building work with funders and grantees. Together, the studies showcase varied approaches to addressing the long-term capacity needs of grantees and provide valuable insights for foundations, consultants, and practitioners. The series also pilots a new approach for GrantCraft in which we tap the wisdom of technical assistance providers in making sure learnings from foundation projects are shared widely.
  • Glasspockets recently hit a milestone, publishing its one hundredth profile of a funder that has publicly participated in the "Who Has Glass Pockets?" self-assessment. To celebrate, Glasspockets has launched a blog series, the "Road to 100 & Beyond," featuring foundations that have played a part in the site reaching this milestone. In addition to helpful examples, the series highlights reflections on why transparency is important, how openness inside foundations evolves over time, and lessons learned.
  • We added a new infographic to the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy portal which shows the U.S. dropping to #71 on the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index — the first time since 2011 the U.S. has fallen out of the top 20. According to the infographic, about 3 percent of overall funding for democracy work goes to open government and transparency efforts. You can check it out and more at foundationcenter.org/infographics.
  • Grantmakers in the Arts published its annual Arts Funding Snapshot in the Winter 2019 edition of the GIA Reader. The snapshot looks at foundation giving for arts and culture for 2016, based on the most recent complete year of data for a set of the largest U.S.-based private and community foundations (by total giving). A webinar that explores the findings is available on the GIA website.
  • GuideStar launched updated APIs with new data and filters, as well as new internal administrative functions, meaning you can now get more data through GuideStar's Premier API that you can't find anywhere else, including nonprofit logos, demographic information, and due-diligence information. You can also search for organizations in new ways, thanks to new filters that enable users to sort by organizations that are in good standing with the IRS and by cause area.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Out in the community! On March 13, our San Francisco office kicked off a new series of monthly orientations at our nearby Funding Information Network partner location. The staff presentation at the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library featured forty minutes of training, twenty minutes of Q&A, and an hour of one-on-one support for those who needed it, drawing a great crowd and generating rave reviews. Candid staff in San Francisco is excited to pilot this new program model, which among other things addresses how we can best partner with our Funding Information Network (FIN) partners in San Francisco (and beyond) in anticipation of our San Francisco library closing for good on June 30.
  • What's that, you say? In 2019, Candid will start shifting its efforts from maintaining regional direct-service locations to focusing more on our 400+ FIN partner sites, which are located in communities across the U.S.as well as several countries. Through deeper and closer collaboration with our FIN partners, we hope to make our Social Sector Outreach services available far and wide — services that include the same great programming and access to tools and expertise you’ve come to expect at our regional locations. Please check out this interactive map to find a FIN location near you. And read the full announcement from VP of Social Sector Outreach Zohra Zori.
  • We are working with Sustain Arts and See Chicago Dance on the first data-driven analysis of the Chicagoland dance sector since 2002.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 252,817 new grants added to Foundation Maps in February, of which 5,762 were made to 4,251 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Leverage insights from Foundation Directory Online to connect to funders: Connect Guide.
  • 12 participants from the Bay Area and beyond participated in a three-day Proposal Writing Boot Camp. Check out all 2019 boot camp dates here.
  • New data sharing partners: Aesop Foundation Australia, Colorado Plateau Foundation, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, InFaith Community Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation, Klein Family Foundation, Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation, St Mary's Medical Center,Notah Begay III Foundation, Scriven Foundation, and the Steele-Reese Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world! Learn more about our eReporting program.
  • New customers: RoundUp APP, Tides Foundation, University of California, Santa Barbara, California State University, Los Angeles,F.B. Heron Foundation, Barr Foundation, Elevation Web, Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Data Spotlight

  • In honor of Women's History Month, we are highlighting data centered around support for women and girls across our research:
    • Funding directed for women and girls made up 23 percent of all foundation funding for human rights, some $2.1 billion, between 2011-15. Over the course of those five years, funding for women and girls increased by 43 percent, representing the greatest share of funding targeted to a particular population group.
    • Of all international giving by U.S. foundations between 2011-15, 13.8 percent, or $4.8 billion, was targeted to women and girls. And while overall giving increased by 36 percent over the five-year period, funding targeted to women and girls increased 77 percent.
    • Between 2014-15, 13 percent of all funding from U.S. foundations directed to Latin America targeted women and girls, including a grant of $1.3 million over three years from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to Mexico's National Institute of Public Health in support of research on the promotion of professional midwifery.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

New Tax on 'Excess' Executive Compensation Poses Challenge for Tax-Exempt Organizations

March 18, 2019

Tax_puzzleThe ability to attract and retain high-quality executives is an important component in the success of any tax-exempt organization and the fulfillment of its mission. A new provision of the Internal Revenue Code added by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will have a "sea change" impact on the cost of compensating such individuals. Under the provision, "excessive compensation" paid to executives by a tax-exempt organization will subject the organization to a substantial excise tax liability. The penalty may be viewed as an attempt to level the playing field, inasmuch as the tax consequences associated with the payment of "excessive compensation" paid by for-profit employers, in particular by for-profit public companies, to their senior executives can result in the loss of a tax deduction for excessive compensation payments.

What Is the New Excise Tax?

Effective as of January 1, 2018, "applicable tax-exempt organizations" are subject to a 21 percent excise tax on the sum of (i) compensation paid by the tax-exempt organization (and certain entities related to the tax-exempt organization) for a taxable year to a "covered employee" that exceeds $1 million, and (ii) any "excess parachute payment" paid by the tax-exempt organization to a covered employee.

Which Tax-Exempt Organizations Are Subject to the Tax?

Any organization that is exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code section 501(a), such as public charities (e.g., United Way), exempt farmers' cooperative organizations, certain state or local governmental entities, and certain political organizations, are subject to the tax.

Continue reading »

How Philanthropy Can Catalyze Private Investment in Opportunity Zones

March 13, 2019

Oppzones_792x800The U.S. Department of the Treasury expects Opportunity Zones to unlock well over $100 billion in private investment in low-wealth communities across the United States. The tax incentive, which became law as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, seeks to encourage patient capital investments in more than eighty-seven hundred designated census tracts across the country by permitting investors to reinvest capital gains in designated census tracts in exchange for tax benefits.

Opportunity Zones represent the first time federal tax policy has sought to tap unrealized capital gains to advance economic and community development. Proponents believe the incentive will help transform low-wealth communities, while skeptics have doubts that funds will flow to the people and places most in need — and, even if they do, that the ensuing transformation will have a positive impact on longtime residents and small businesses.

Against this backdrop, philanthropy should step up and help shape the Opportunity Zone landscape so that benefits of the legislation also accrue to longtime residents and businesses.

Here are six ways philanthropy can help:

1. Shape the rules of the game. Philanthropy can influence IRS guidelines for Opportunity Zones — and, if necessary, follow-on legislation — to ensure that the incentive is implemented in a manner that reflects the interests of communities and the intent of the program. For some foundations, this may include support for developing and tracking metrics, stakeholder interviews to uncover opportunities and issues, and/or deep-dive case studies of specific transactions. The data from these activities can then be used to generate valuable tweaks to the design of the program. As always, data-driven insights will be critical to making the case for modifying, fine-tuning, or extending the incentive.

2. Level the playing field. Foundations are well suited to ensure that communities are poised to attract investor interest and have a seat at the table as Opportunity Zone transactions are negotiated. Organizations such as Accelerator for America are already working with cities across the country to create investment prospectuses, while others such as the Governance Project are working with municipal leadership to develop business cases and strategies for priority projects in communities such as Louisville and San Jose. There is far more that can and should be done, however, and the unique features of rural Opportunity Zones must also be accounted for so that those communities are not left behind.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 9-10, 2019)

March 10, 2019

John-Oliver-picture-1A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

"We have reached a moment when foundations must face the ways they may be reinforcing inequality," write Brittany Boettcher and Kathleen Kelly Janus in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. But, they add, there are three things funders can do to improve their efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Grantmaking

Candid, PND's parent organization, will be well represented at this year's PEAK Grantmaking conference in Denver. On the GrantCraft blog, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Candid, previews the sessions she and our colleague Jen Bokoff will be leading.

Health

On the Commonwealth Fund's Tipping Point blog, Billy Wynne, co-founder of Wynne Health Group, and Josh LaRosa, a policy associate at the firm, look at actions taken by the Trump administration and Congress to rein in prescription drug prices — and find little to cheer about. 

Journalism

The sale of the Newseum building in Washington, D.C. to Johns Hopkins University is a cautionary tale — one that the museum’s leadership must take to heart when and if it ever opens its doors again. Kriston Capps reports for CityLab.

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4 Questions You Should Consider Before Giving Internationally

March 08, 2019

512x512bbWhether you've traveled to distant parts of the world and were inspired by the inventiveness of the communities you visited, read about an issue in an article, or maybe just feel a kinship with a special place, the desire to help others can quickly move to the top of your priority list. Supporting the efforts of nonprofits working on issues you most care about is a great way to take action. But giving outside the U.S. can be daunting. Luckily, there are lots of resources that can help you achieve what you hope to with your generosity.

Whether you're considering a one-time donation or providing sustained support to a charity somewhere else in the world, there are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge.

1. Where would you like to donate? There are plenty of issues around the world that could use, and are deserving of, your help. But which of those do you feel passionately about? Rainforest conservation in Brazil? Great! Schools for girls in Kenya? Fantastic! The first step is narrowing it down.

Do some research to find out which charities align with your giving goals. A quick glance at most charities' websites will give you a good idea about the impact the charity has had in the past and how it is working toward its mission today.

This kind of research sometimes can be more challenging than a simple Web search. Some foreign organizations have a great online presence with lots of good information translated into English. When this is not the case, donors have some options:

There are a number of 501(c)(3) organizations that facilitate international grantmaking and also provide extensive databases of organizations eligible to receive funding (the CAF America Global Database is one).

Some countries also maintain national registries of charities. The UK Charity Commission and Canadian Revenue Agency List of Charities are both good country-specific resources.

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